The Autobiography of Isaac Williams, B.D., Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Oxford. Edited by his brother-in-law, the Ven. Sir GEORGE PREVOST, Bart. (London, 1892.)
THIS Autobiography fills a most important gap in the accounts we have recently been receiving of those who took part on one side or the other in the Oxford Movement. The name of Mr. Isaac Williams may not have been so prominently before the public as that of some of those who worked with him, but his personal influence was very direct and important, whilst his writings both in prose and verse have been very widely read, and some of them still retain their position amongst the works of a devotional character that are valued. It is satisfactory to find that considerable interest is felt in this Life, as a second edition has been called for within a few weeks of its first publication.
The Autobiography before us has completely escaped the error into which most modern books of the kind have fallen. There has been no attempt to amplify what it says, and to [332/333] repeat special points in the life by inserting letters to and from friends dealing with the same matters, or seeking to impress characteristics of the subject of the book by multiplying examples of their display. The Autobiography is evidently what it professes to be, a simple account of events in the life of Mr. Williams which he wrote for the information and benefit of his children without any thought of its ever being published to the world. There is consequently about it an air of freshness and simplicity such as we rarely meet with. And it may be well perhaps to note that the Autobiography would probably have never seen the light if it had not been for the urgent request of friends, to whom the manuscript was shown, and to a curious mistake into which the late Dean of St. Paul's accidentally fell in his interesting account of the Oxford Movement. He there says of Isaac Williams:
'He describes himself as coming up to Trinity, where he soon got a scholarship, an ambitious and careless youth, who had never heard a word about Christianity, and to whom religion, its aims and its restraints, were a mere name' (p. 58).
This was evidently a slight confusion of memory on the part of the Dean, and Mr. Williams's surviving relatives were anxious to publish this Autobiography in order to vindicate the religious character of Mr. Williams's parents and of the education which he had received from them. This is evident from what is said in the Autobiography. Speaking of a private preparatory school to which he was sent he writes:
'Almost the first boys I came in contact with, on leaving home, produced on my mind a very startling impression. I remember then feeling, for the first time, that I understood what the Bible and the Catechism meant by speaking of the world as "wicked." In early life I was often much affected with strong impressions on the shortness of life, and the transitory nature of all human things, and was greatly taken with Sherlock on Death, sentences of which haunted me like some musical strain' (p. 3).
And again, just before he went to read with Mr. John Keble:
'Influences of school and college had done very much to undo the blessed inspirations of childhood, home instructions, and maternal warnings; and the eye of God set on the soul at Baptism had well-nigh withdrawn itself, although still all was fair without and of good report, which renders man more loathsome in the sight of God' (p. 14).
No doubt it was this account of himself, that Isaac Williams had given, which lingered in the mind of the good Dean, as he had seen the manuscript autobiography, and he forgot that [333/334] the evil influences were those of school and college and not of home. But let us turn to the life itself.
There is prefixed a short preface to his children, written by himself, and apparently written because he feared that he would not live until they reached a time of life when they would remember him, as he suffered grievously for a great number of years from asthma, which must have made him feel to an unusual extent how uncertain life was. In this preface he says:
'If any of you should live to manhood, you will be glad to know something of the history of my life, and the more so as parts of it have been spent among persons and circumstances in themselves of some interest and moment, and such as must have some effect on the future character and history of the Church in this country.'
Whilst desirous to impress upon his children's minds the importance of the religious movement in which he took part, and such points in his own life as he thinks may tend to their religious edification, he is very silent about much that himself had done, and the efforts he had made to assist the religious cause, to the furtherance of which he dedicated his life. To read the Autobiography no one would suppose that he had been the voluminous writer he was, as he only speaks of three of the Tracts for the Times, about one of which there had been considerable controversy, and the Cathedral, a volume of poetry. Beside these he published a devotional commentary on the Gospels extending over many volumes; a Harmony of the Gospels; The Apocalypse, with Notes and Reflections; The Beginning of the Book of Genesis; Sermons on the Characters of the Old Testament; on The Female Characters of Holy Scripture; on the Catechism; and on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy days throughout the year. Beside these volumes in prose he published a series of poems on the Christian seasons, The Baptistery, and a considerable number of poems in the Lyra Apostolica.
This preface fairly represents what is to be found in the Autobiography. It contains much of the deepest interest with respect to the persons and circumstances that had so seriously and beneficially affected the condition of the Church in this country; whilst of the events of Isaac Williams's maturer life it says but little. That life was a comparatively uneventful one. The son of a Chancery barrister whose home was in Wales, but whose profession obliged him to spend a large part of each year in London, he was sent early to a preparatory school, and after that to Harrow. He was a most [334/335] apt pupil, and delighted in the composition of Latin verses, for which he gained many prizes; and, like many other men who have attained to literary eminence, he delighted in athletic sports, especially cricket. From Harrow he went to Oxford, where he became a scholar of Trinity College, and as an undergraduate he gained the Latin verse prize. After gaining this prize John Keble, of whom he had a slight knowledge previously, offered to look over it with him before it was printed and recited.
'On looking it over with him I was exceedingly amazed at his remarks, and said on coming away, "Keble has more poetry in his little finger than Milman in his whole body." For Milman was then the great poet of Oxford, and, as Poetry Professor, he also had been looking over my poem with me. But on venturing to quote Keble's opinion at that time to my tutor at Trinity, he said, "John Keble may understand Aristotle, but he knows nothing of poetry. It is out of his line"' (pp. 13, 14).
This meeting with Mr. Keble was the turning-point of his life. It led to his reading with him during the long vacation at Southrop, a little village in Gloucestershire, that year and in several following ones. There he had as companions several men who were afterwards prominent in the Oxford Movement. Unfortunately Isaac Williams's health failed him before he took his degree, and under the stern orders of Abernethy he was debarred from reading for some time, so that instead of taking a first class as his friends anticipated, he was obliged to content himself with an ordinary degree. This, however, did not prevent his election to a fellowship and to his subsequently becoming tutor of his college. In 1829, before his election to a fellowship, he was ordained to be curate of Windrush, a village not far from Fairford, where John Keble resided, and after he resumed residence in Oxford he assisted Newman as his curate at St. Mary's. The most noteworthy event, so far as the outer world estimates events, during his residence at Oxford was the contest for the Professorship of Poetry. At the end of 1841, Mr. Keble having reached the end of the term of years for which he had been elected, resigned, and Isaac Williams became a candidate for the vacant chair. The air was filled with the excitement caused by the publication of 'Tract 90' in the earlier part of the year, and the opponents and lukewarm or timid friends of the Tracts for the Times thought that the opportunity of this election ought not to be lost for protesting against or giving a warning hint to the writers. Accordingly Mr. Garbett was proposed in opposition to Mr. Williams, and the [335/336] election was carried on throughout by Mr. Garbett's supporters as a question of confidence or want of confidence in the principles advocated by the Tracts for the Times, with the result, at that time tolerably certain to follow, that the Tractarian candidate was defeated. He remained in Oxford until 1842, when he married Miss Caroline Champernowne, and at the same time removed to Bisley, where he laboured as curate to Mr. Thomas Keble, until his very serious illness in 1846, when for weeks, if not for months, he seemed to be hovering between life and death. From this illness he so far recovered as to live many years, but it practically incapacitated him from further active work in a parish. He accordingly removed to Stinchcombe, a parish in Gloucestershire, of which his brother-in-law, Sir George Prevost, was vicar, and there he lived till his death in 1865.
There are, then, two chief points of interest to which this Autobiography calls our attention. The one is the influences by which Mr. Isaac Williams's own religious opinions were formed; the other is what he says concerning the other chief actors in the Oxford Movement, and the growth and tendencies in the minds of some which led them to desert the Church of their baptism, whilst others remained true and steadfast members of it to the end.
The admirable manner in which the formation of Isaac Williams's religious opinions is described by Dean Church places the matter so fairly and clearly before us that it would be impossible to improve upon it. We therefore venture to make a long extract from his book on the Oxford Movement.
'From Keble, or it may be said from the Kebles, he received his theology. The Kebles were all of them men of the old-fashioned High Church orthodoxy, of the Prayer Book and the Catechism, the orthodoxy which was professed at Oxford, which was represented in London by Norris of Hackney and Joshua Watson; which valued in religion sobriety, reverence, and deference to authority, and in teaching sound learning and the wisdom of the great English divines which vehemently disliked the Evangelicals and Methodists for their poor and loose theology, their love of excitement and display, their hunting after popularity. This Church of England divinity was the theology of the old vicar of Coln St. Aldwyn's, a good scholar and a good parish priest, who had brought up his two sons at home to be scholars, and had impressed his solid and manly theology on them so strongly that amid all changes they remained at bottom true to their paternal training. John Keble added to it great attainments and brilliant gifts of imagination and poetry; but he never lost the plain, down right, almost awkward ways of conversation and manner of his simple [336/337] home--ways which might have seemed abrupt and rough but for the singular sweetness and charm of his nature. To those who looked on the outside he was always the homely, rigidly orthodox country clergyman. On Isaac Williams, with his ethical standard, John Keble also impressed his ideas of religious truth. He made him an old-fashioned High Churchman, suspicious of excitement and "effect," suspicious of the loud-talking religious world, suspicious of its novelties and shallowness, and clinging with his whole soul to ancient ways and sound Church of England doctrine reflected in the Prayer Book. And from John Keble's influence he passed under the influence of Thomas Keble, the Vicar of Bisley, a man of sterner type than his brother, with strong and definite opinions on all subjects, curt and keen in speech, intolerant of all that seemed to threaten wholesome teaching and the interests of the Church, and equally straightforward, equally simple, in manners and life. Under him Isaac Williams began his career as a clergyman. He spent two years of solitary and monotonous life in a small cure [Windrush], seeking comfort from solitude in poetical composition ["It was very calm and subduing," he writes], and then he was recalled to Oxford as fellow and tutor of his college, to meet a new and stronger influence, which it was part of the work and trial of the rest of his life both to assimilate and to resist' (pp. 61-2).
Before leaving this part of the subject, it ought to be added that it was no small attraction to Isaac Williams to see the way in which the Kebles cared for the poor of their flocks, and to share in those labours of love for their benefit which made their influence felt throughout their parishes. Much of what they did is commonly found at the present day. It was not so common sixty years since. In the days of the old poor law, when the agricultural labourers were degraded by receiving a portion of the scanty pittance on which they had to live from the rates levied for the poor, they had to appear before the overseers of the parish to obtain the relief they required. These overseers were for the most part farmers, who strove to reduce the allowance to a minimum, and at the same time often bullied the unhappy applicants in a shameless manner. To protect these unfortunate people Mr. Thomas Keble regularly sat with the overseers during the whole time they were engaged in seeing the needy petitioners for help, and did his best to secure justice and consideration for them. At the same time he established clothing clubs, both for the children in the schools and the cottagers, to which he contributed in a princely manner. He also supplied them with rice and other food at a cheap rate, and when they were sick he furnished them with medicines which were more costly than the ill-paid parish doctor was likely to supply. In [337/338] all these labours Isaac Williams heartily joined, and his fame as a doctor was so great in Bisley that when patients were given over by the parish official they applied to him for advice and treatment, and he not infrequently was the means of restoring to health those whose cases had been pronounced desperate by the parish doctor.
Another specialty of the Keble school was its love for the daily services as ordered by the Prayer Book.
'Thomas Keble had resolved about 1816, when he made that collection of "Authorities for the use of the Daily Service" published in the Tracts for the Times, that if ever he had a parish of his own he would at once begin daily service, which he did immediately on coming to reside at Bisley in 1827. This was the origin of the revival of the daily service. The Kebles at Fairford were in the habit of reading. the daily Church Service in their family, and when Thomas Keble (in the year 1827) had the living of Bisley given him, then in lieu of the prayer meetings which had been customary in that parish he established the daily service in the church, which was then spoken of as a strange fancy. Having been, therefore, long accustomed to this, when I first became Newman's curate at St. Mary's, in common with a great many less definite opinions and practices which I imported from Bisley, one was a daily morning service at St. Mary's, to which we afterwards added this service at Littlemore in the afternoon, so that there should be both services daily in the parish.' [Autobiography, pp. 75-6]
The above details have been given to show as clearly as may be the views of that side of those engaged in the Oxford Movement with which Isaac Williams sympathized. It may be well next to point out the different standing-ground of those united with them in the same work, but from whom they came to differ more and more.
For the most part the leading men of this kind belonged at the outset to the Low Church school. The following shows the great change of opinion in Newman:
Perhaps there is no more extraordinary instance of the changes; which Newman had undergone than in the "Home Thoughts Abroad" which Newman published in the British Magazine on his first going abroad with Froude in 1831-2, for in those papers he expresses his astonishment at the exact and wonderful fulfilment of the prophecies that represented Rome and its bishop as the Antichrist, which, although he had always held, he said he never could have realized had he not witnessed its idolatries. But the next time he visited Rome it was as a Roman Catholic. Archdeacon Wilberforce mentioned to me here, before he himself joined the Church of Rome, that, when fellows of Oriel together, Pusey, Froude, himself, and Newman used to meet together on Sunday evenings, when [338/339] Newman used eloquently to expound the Apocalypse, taking Mede's view, that the Pope is Antichrist' (pp. 44-5 n.)
Then of two others:
'Robert Wilberforce, who spent one long vacation there [Mr. John Keble], did not feel towards John Keble as we did at that time, having been brought up in an opposite school; he observed one day, "What a strange person Keble is; there is Law's Serious Call, instead of leaving it about to do people good, I see he reads it and puts it out of the way, hiding it in a drawer." The same reality in religion and self-discipline, to the rejection of appearances and all pretension, had a remarkable effect on Ryder. He also had been brought up in a strict evangelical school of the better kind; and on one occasion got up and left a college party in consequence of some thing that Froude had said that seemed to him to be of a light kind. But when he afterwards came to know the deep self-humiliation and depth of devotion there was in Froude's character, which was engaged in the discipline of the heart, he became so shocked with himself and his own opinions that he adopted the opposite course' (pp. 28-9)
Robert Wilberforce and Ryder followed Newman's example, and became Roman Catholics; some there were connected with the movement sooner or later who ranged themselves with the Keble school, whilst others followed: Newman's guidance. Amongst the former were Dr. Pusey, Copeland of Trinity, Marriott, Sir George Prevost, and Wilson of Rownhams; amongst the latter, Ward and Oakely, Dalgairns and Anderson; whilst there were others who did not definitely belong to either of these schools, such as Froude, Thomas and James Mozley, Church, &c. There were from the beginning underlying differences between the two schools of thought that have been named, in their manner of appreciating events, and in tendencies of their natural character, which after a time manifested themselves more openly, and caused misunderstandings amongst them with which this Autobiography, and the volume on the Oxford Movement by the late Dean of St. Paul's, and the life of W. G. Ward, make us acquainted to an extent that had been previously little generally known. Isaac Williams thus describes the views of himself and of those who most fully sympathized with him:
'Our principles then were of the Caroline Divines, thinking much of the Divine right of kings and the like, but we approached perhaps more to those of the non-jurors. Newman was now becoming a Churchman; the first thing he did publicly, which marked this change of sentiment, had been a pamphlet on the Church Missionary Society, recommending the clergy to join it in order that by their numbers [339/340] they might correct that Calvinistic leaven on account of which they were opposed to it' (p. 47).
Then, looking at Newman in the earlier days of their intercourse, he says:
I was greatly charmed and delighted with Newman, who was exceedingly kind to me, but did not altogether trust his opinions, and although Froude was in the habit of stating things in an extreme and paradoxical manner, yet one always felt conscious of a thorough foundation of truth and principle in him--a ground of entire confidence and agreement--but this was not so with Newman, even although one appeared more in unison with his more moderate statements. Our principles were so little those of Newman up to this time, that he had been the cause of Hawkins being elected Provost of Oriel instead of Keble' (p. 48).
And then, as showing the difference in their natural characteristics, or possibly in the manner in which they had been educated:
'I can remember a strong feeling of difference I felt on acting together with Newman from what I had been accustomed to, that he was in the habit of looking for effect, for what was sensibly effective, which from the Bisley and Fairford school I had been long habituated to avoid' (p. 54).
Perhaps the most startling evidence of this difference of feeling was shown in Newman's anxiety to learn the influence which the Oxford Tracts were making in the early days of their publication upon the country clergy. He tells us in the Apologia:
I presented myself in 1833 with some of the first papers of the movement to a country clergyman in Northamptonshire he paused awhile, and then eyeing me with significance, asked "Whether Whately was at the bottom of them?" ... The visit which I made to the Northamptonshire Rectory was only one of a series of similar expedients which I adopted during the year 1833. I called upon clergy in various parts of the country, whether I was acquainted with them or not, and I attended at the houses of friends where several of them were from time to time assembled. I do not think that much came of such attempts, nor were they quite in my way. Also I wrote various letters to clergymen which fared not much better, except that they advertised the fact that a rally in favour of the Church was commencing. I did not care whether my visits were made to high Church or low Church; I wished to make a strong pull in union with all who were opposed to the principles of liberalism whoever they might be' (pp. 110-11).
What a contrast this to the principles by which the Keble school were actuated:
 'I had been taught there [Bisley and Fairford] to do one's duty in faith and leave the effect to God, and that all the more earnestly because there were no sympathies from without to answer." [Autobiography, p. 54.]
So averse were the Kebles to what was popular and calculated to produce effect, that they would never have an evening service on Sundays, because it seemed to them open to moral objections, although in their country parishes such services would have been attended by the largest congregations.
But whilst there were such differences of natural character and tendencies in the men who at first, or later on, were engaged in the Oxford Movement, there was a strong bond of union amongst them, in the presence of which differences disappeared for the time, and that was attachment to the Church and a desire to do what they could to defend it in what appeared to be its hour of peril. At that time it seemed as though the greatest changes were imminent. Ten Irish sees had been destroyed; the Prime Minister had bidden the Bishops set their house in order; the Bishops were insulted in the streets, and it seemed as though everything was ripe for ecclesiastical revolution. To stem the tide at the moment difficult, if not impossible. 'If I thought we could stand ten or fifteen years as we are I should have little fear,' said H. J. Rose, but there appeared small chance of such interval being allowed. No time was to be lost, something must be done and at once, was the feeling under which Mr. Palmer of Worcester College, Mr. A. Percival, and Mr. A. Froude met at the house of Mr. Rose at Hadleigh in July 1833. The first suggestion was the formation of an association like the English Church Union or the Church Defence Association of our day; but this fell through on account of differences of opinion relative to the mention of doctrine, and as to the importance of insisting upon the maintenance of the union of Church and State as long as possible. The form this movement eventually took was the drawing up of an address to the Archbishop of Canterbury in defence of the doctrine and discipline of the Church, which was very extensively signed.
But this was not all. It was evident that writing was essential, that the evils of the time must be exposed, that the threatening dangers must be brought home to the convictions of Churchmen. To do this papers appeared in the British Magazine, which Mr. Rose had recently started and of which he was the editor. The Oxford men wanted more than this. [341/342] They wanted publications which would startle and frighten apathetic Churchmen, and those most interested know that committees are not likely to produce such writings. Isaac Williams tells us:
'The circumstance which I most remember about that time was a conversation with Froude, which was the first commencement of the Tracts for the Times. He returned full of energy and of a prospect of doing something for the Church, and we walked in the Trinity College Gardens and discussed the subject. He said in his manners "Isaac, we must make a row in the world. Why should we not? Only consider what the Peculiars, i.e. the Evangelicals, have done with a few half-truths to work upon! And with our principles if we set resolutely to work, we can do the same." I said, "I have no doubt we can make a noise and may get people to join us, but shall we make them really better Christians? If they take up our principles in a hollow way, as the Peculiars [this was a name Froude had given the Low Church party] have done theirs, what good shall we do?" To this Froude said, "Church principles forced on people's notice must work for good. However, we must try, and Newman and I are determined to set to work as soon as he returns, and you must join us"' (pp. 62-4).
Hence followed what Newman tells us in his Apologia:
'I, on the other hand, had out of my own head begun the Tracts, and these, as representing the antagonistic principle of personality, were looked upon by Mr. Palmer's friends with considerable alarm. The great point at the time with these good men in London--some of them men of the highest principle and far from being influenced by what we used to call Erastianism--was to put down the Tracts. I, as their editor, and mainly their author, was not unnaturally willing to give way. Keble and Froude advocated their continuance strongly, and were angry with me for consenting to stop them' (p. 109).
Isaac Williams thus speaks of their early reception:
'All the circumstances which were now taking place indicated the silent progress of the movement. When the Tracts were first published little or no notice was taken of them. I remember asking my pupil, Nevile, as he went home for the vacation, to call at booksellers' shops in large towns and to inquire for the Tracts and to ask them to procure them. I did so myself. But by degrees Newman, when I daily went to his rooms after my lecture, would have some little incident to mention which implied that the movement was not dead. Then I remember his finding, to his great delight, an allusion to the Tracts in the Times newspaper' (pp. 81-2).
The late Dean of St. Paul's thus eloquently describes the growth of the movement:
 There was no attempt to form a party or to proselytise; there was no organisation, no distinct and recognized party marks. "I would not have it called a party," writes Newman in the Apologia. But a party it could not help being; quietly and spontaneously it had grown to be what community of ideas, aims, and sympathies, naturally, and without blame, leads men to become. And it had acquired a number of recognized nicknames, to friends and enemies the sign of growing concentration. For the questions stated in the Tracts and outside them became of increasing interest to the more intelligent men who had finished their University course, and were preparing to enter into life--the Bachelors and younger Masters of Arts. One by one they passed from various states of mind--alienation, suspicion, fear, indifference, blank ignorance--into a consciousness that something beyond the mere commonplace of religious novelty and eccentricity, of which there had been a good deal recently, was before them; that doctrines and statements running counter to the received religious language of the day--doctrines about which, in confident prejudice, they had perhaps bandied about offhand judgments--had more to say for themselves than was thought at first; that the questions thus raised drove them in on themselves, and appealed to their honesty and seriousness; and that, at any rate, in the men who were arresting so much attention, however extravagant their teaching might be called, there was a remarkable degree of sober and reserved force, an earnestness of conviction which could not be doubted, and undeniable and subtle power of touching souls and attracting sympathies. One by one, and in many different ways, these young men went through various stages of curiosity, of surprise, of perplexity, of doubt, of misgiving, of interest; some were frightened, and wavered, and drew back more or less reluctantly; others, in spite of themselves, in spite of opposing influences, were led on step by step, hardly knowing whither, by a spell which they could not resist, of intellectual, or, still more, moral pressure' (pp. 156-7).
There is something in Williams's Autobiography, showing 'the feeling of older men in the University, which makes this picture still more striking:
'Many concurring circumstances had now tended to strengthen Church principles. The attempt of the Government to force the University to receive Dissenters, which was thrown back by the unanimous action of the whole body. I remember Denison, the present Bishop of Salisbury, meeting Newman in Parker the book-seller's shop, and saying: "To make a stand against the Government by a handful of men here is absurd. What do they care for you? They will only despise you." But the event was very different. At that time we were determined to go by faith and not mind the chance of failure, and the stand so gathered strength that we had a meeting of the University in Magdalen Common Room, with Burton, the Divinity Professor, in the chair, and a determination in favour of a [343/344] strong simultaneous resistance became almost unanimous' (pp 94-5).
But the differences of opinion already spoken of soon made themselves felt. At the outset of the publication of the Tracts some dissevered themselves from the movement more or less directly, whilst some who had at first declined to throw their lot in with its supporters--notably Dr. Pusey--joined their ranks. The excitement spread, general attention was called to the important Church questions which were mooted, the number of friends and adherents rapidly multiplied, and the keen tooth of bitter hostility was sharpened.
Then it was that Williams tells us:
I watched from the beginning, and saw among ourselves greater dangers than those from without, which I attempted to obviate by publishing the Plain Sermons. I attempted in vain to get the Kebles to publish, in order to keep pace with Newman, and so to maintain a more practical turn in the movement. I remember C. Cornish coming to me and saying, as we walked in Trinity Gardens, "People are a little afraid of being carried away by Newman's brilliancy; they want more of the steady sobriety of the Kebles. infused into the movement to keep us safe. We have so much sail, we want ballast." And the effect of the Plain Sermons was at the time very quieting: they soothed the alarms of many ... I thought of publishing these sermons in connexion with the Tracts, and with Newman's concurrence undertook it, being actuated with fears for the result of Newman's restless intellectual theories. I wrote the preface for those sermons, expressing my apprehensions; but this advertisement was so altered at Bisley by Jeffreys and others as to have been quite spoilt, as things are which are written by one person and altered by others' (pp 96-7).
To keep the friends together who had started the movement at Oxford:
'Pusey formed a plan of our meeting every Friday evening at his house, and reading lectures on some point in Divinity. Some of the Tracts for the Times were written for that purpose. Such was my "Tract No. 80." I had now been in the habit of reading Origen's Commentaries on the Gospels, and there observed how much he alluded to a mysterious holding back of sacred truth, such as I had always been struck with in the conduct of the Kebles. And this view was much confirmed by my own studies connected with our college lectures on the Gospels, which led me constantly to notice this in our Lord's conduct. At Norman Hill in the vacation I wrote out these thoughts in an essay; showed it to John Keble, who wished it to be one of the Tracts, and I read it at Pusey's on a Friday. When talking of it there with Newman and Pusey, the former suggested that we should attach to it the name of "Reserve in Religious [344/345] Teaching." I mention this circumstance because some were more alarmed at the name than anything else' (pp. 89-90).
The internal troubles of those interested in the Oxford Movement were soon intensified by another cause, which is thus described by the late Dean of St. Paul's:
As the time went on, men joined the movement who had but qualified sympathy with that passionate love and zeal for the actual English Church, that acquaintance with its historical theology, and that temper of discipline, sobriety, and self-distrust which marked its first representatives. These younger men shared in the growing excitement of the society round them. They were attracted by visible height of character and brilliant intellectual power. Some of these were men of wide and abstruse learning; quaint and eccentric scholars both in habit and look, students of the ancient type, who even fifty years ago seemed out of date to their generation. Some were men of considerable force of mind, destined afterwards to leave a mark on their age as thinkers and writers. . . In the latter of these classes may be mentioned Frederick Faber, J. D. Dalgairns, and W. G. Ward, men who have all since risen to eminence in their different spheres' (pp. 204-5).
The last named of these was eager and impetuous, a singularly able logician, with no real care for the Church of England, or loyalty for her, but anxious to test her and see what amount of what he held to be Catholic truth she would tolerate. Perpetually with Newman, whom he regarded as his special teacher, he was for ever pushing him on in a Romeward direction. To oppose this seemed to be Isaac Williams's special mission; and throughout, the Autobiography testifies to his constant fears of the result, and his anxious foreboding of what he dreaded might happen. Thus he writes:
'Nothing had as yet impaired my friendship with Newman. We lived daily very much together; but I had a secret uneasiness, not from anything said or implied, but from a want of repose about his character, that I thought he would start into some line different from Keble and Pusey, though I knew not in what direction it would be. Often when walking together, when leaving him, have I heard a deep sigh which I could not interpret. It seemed to speak of weariness of the world, and of aspirations for something he wished to do and had not yet done. Of the putting out of Church principles he often spoke as of an experiment which he did not know whether the Church of England would bear, and knew not what would be the issue' (pp. 101-2). 'Many have naturally supposed that it was the condemnation of the Tract No. 90 by the Heads of Houses which gave his sensitive mind the decided turn to the Church of Rome. But I remember circumstances which indicated it was not so. He talked to me of writing a tract on the Thirty-nine Articles, and at the same [345/346] time said things in favour of the Church of Rome which quite startled and alarmed me, and I was afraid he would express the same in this tract, with no idea (as his manner was) of the sensation it would occasion. After endeavouring to dissuade him from it, I said, "Well, at all events let me see it first" (p. 108). 'His decided leaning to Rome came out to me in private before that tract was written. Certainly he felt neglected before by the University, and constantly irritated by the Head of his college; and I used to be surprised he had not more learned to look on persecution as a matter of course, what a good man must expect to meet with, and which should be to him a satisfaction, as indicating him to be in the way of truth. Yet nothing had as yet impaired our intimacy and friend ship, until one evening, when alone in his rooms, he told me he thought the Church of Rome was right, and we were wrong, so much so that we ought to join it.' ... 'This conversation grieved and amazed me, and I at once wrote and gave Newman to understand that we could not be together so much as we had been. I owed it to myself. I had no right to put myself into temptation to subject myself willingly to influences which must operate so powerfully on the mind (for what could be more attractive than influence?), and thus to be led to what I was now assured was wrong. Yet still nothing of the nature of ill-will or a quarrel arose between us' (pp. 109-111).
And as showing the kind of theological atmosphere in which Newman was living, we have the following:
'It was a great relief to me at that time, when I knew not how far our mutual friends agreed with Newman, that John Bowden--Newman's oldest and best friend--took me aside and thanked me greatly for the way I had spoken in The Baptistery against Rome, saying that Oxford, which had always been before his most delightful retreat, was now becoming painful to him from the Romanizing tendencies in some of our friends. Yet still all this was long before it was publicly known what Newman's thoughts really were; and he was for some time accused by some of dishonesty and duplicity' (p. 112).
Whilst speaking thus openly of the Romanizing tendencies of Newman for some years before he left the Church of England, this Autobiography makes it very clear that with the great majority of those who took part in writing the Tracts for the Times there was the most complete loyalty to our Church. Mr. Williams writes:
'It seems to be a popular notion that the original writers of the Tracts have generally joined the Church of Rome, and that therefore that movement of itself has been so far a failure; but this is very far from being the case, for it is a very remarkable circumstance, and one which I find very much strikes every one to whom I have mentioned it, that out of all the writers in the Tracts for the Times one only has joined the Church of Rome. And another remarkable fact is, that whereas those writers are sometimes popularly said to have been of [346/347] the Evangelical school, the only one, I believe, who was so was this very one who has joined the Roman Church. From which it appears that there is standing-ground in the Church of England between these two extremes. Of all who took any part, however slight and trivial, in the Tracts for the Times, I can make out fourteen, and I do not think there were any more--Froude, Newman, John and Thomas Keble, Arthur Perceval, John Bowden, Isaac Williams, Pusey, Benjamin Harrison (since Archdeacon), William Palmer (author of the Origines Liturgicae), Thomas Mozley, Sir George Prevost, Antony Buller, and R. J. Wilson' (p. 120).
This is thoroughly confirmed by what the late Dean of St. Paul's says:
'Anglicanism itself was not Roman; friends and foes said it was not, to reproach as well as to defend it. It was not Roman in Dr. Pusey, though he was not afraid to acknowledge what was good in Rome. It was not Roman in Mr. Keble and his friends, in Dr. Moberly of Winchester and the Barters. It was not Roman in Mr. Isaac Williams, Mr. Copeland, and Mr. Woodgate, each of them a centre of influence in Oxford and the country. It was not Roman in the devoted Charles Marriott, or in Isaac Williams' able and learned pupil, Mr. Arthur Haddan. It was not Roman in Mr. James Mozley, after Mr. Newman the most forcible and impressive of the Oxford writers. A distinctively English party grew up, both in Oxford and away from it, strong in eminent names, in proportion as Roman sympathies showed themselves. These men were, in any fair judgment, as free from Romanising as any of their accusers; but they made their appeal for patience and fair judgment in vain. If only the rulers could have had patience--but patience is a difficult virtue in the presence of what seem pressing dangers. Their policy was wrong, stupid, unjust, pernicious. It was a deplorable mistake, and all will wish now that the discredit of it did not rest on the history of Oxford. And yet it was the mistake of upright and conscientious men' (pp. 292-3).
The internal history of the movement has now been laid bare, and we have seen the inmost workings of the thoughts of the hearts of those who took part in it, as well as the story of what they did, portrayed by themselves or their biographers. The chief actors in what was then done have passed away, and there remain but two of them to have their biography written. Dr. Pusey's Life, commenced by the much-lamented Dr. Liddon, will, we trust, soon appear; and it is to be hoped that a more worthy life of John Keble will yet be given to us than we at present possess. Friends and foes of a somewhat later generation are now giving their views of the character of at least one of the chief promoters of the Oxford Movement. And if Dr. Abbott seeks to be[347/348]little Newman, and with microscopic diligence to hunt out and bring into the fullest light of day the inconsistencies of which he was guilty, and the mistakes into which he fell, and the want of a definite principle to guide his action by which his leadership was marked, and the exaggerated extent to which thought of his own personal salvation blinded him to other considerations, we have in Mr. R. H. Hutton's interesting and appreciative biography the warm and admiring views of one who felt how much of his spiritual life he owed to him whose biography he was writing.
In the full glare of light which has been thrown upon the authors of the Oxford Movement, which has so vitally affected the Church of England, we feel that whilst mistakes were made, that whilst the chief earlier leader and some of his immediate followers lacked faith and loyalty in the Church whose defenders they intended to be, there is nevertheless little that will not bear the closest scrutiny. We believe that all were actuated by high religious motive, that all had a single desire to be true and faithful servants of the one great Master, and that for His sake they were at all times ready to make any sacrifice. Much as we lament the course that some of them eventually pursued, we feel that it would be unworthy prejudice that could hinder us from making this acknowledgement to the men by whose good work we believe that the Church of England has been so signally benefited.